Last week I was at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, which for four hectic days each year is the world’s mecca for tech innovation where over 200,000 delegates and the world’s tech media get to meet thousands of technology companies showcasing their latest products and ideas.
For the third year running, Future Worlds at the University of Southampton was the only UK university incubator to exhibit at CES, showcasing our latest start-ups and spin-outs to a global audience. Since launching in 2015 we’ve been steadily growing a start-up culture at the University and have supported over 130 entrepreneurs through our events, incubator and impressive network of mentors and investors.
Innovation through AI
Convincing myself that the annual CES pilgrimage is worthwhile was as easy as looking up from my screen and seeing scores of potential customers clustering around Daniel Martinho-Corbishley, one of our latest founders. Daniel is co-founder of Aura Vision Labs, a deep learning AI start-up capable of accurately estimating the gender, age and other valuable demographics of individuals as they walk past CCTV cameras in retail and city spaces.
The value for our entrepreneurs attending CES goes far beyond the acquisition of new customers. Pitching to everyone from investors to end users and the world’s press sharpens their ability to communicate and talking to the competition feeds a drive and passion to succeed. All this, combined with the potential for global media coverage, ensures that when they return to the UK they have a clear roadmap and the networks, prospects and skills to make it happen.
And for the wider University, Future Worlds’ unique presence at the show raises our global brand and demonstrates a commitment to help our students and researchers change the world with their ideas. Rather than focussing purely on the mechanics of tech transfer, Future Worlds has allowed the growth of a far broader entrepreneurial culture on campus which nurtures individuals and their innovations, surrounding them with the environment they need to succeed.
Future Worlds is supported by Government Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council funding, allowing it to drive impact from the vital research performed by our academics. It’s exciting to see that the Department for International Trade has also sponsored a UK pavilion at CES this year, which makes a strong statement about its dedication to helping small companies trade abroad. With a growing digital economy, geographic boundaries have become less meaningful and the UK must continue to evolve its approach to global trade as a result.